Thugs & muggers

There has been a lot of predictable and hypocritically horrified coverage of Adolph Mongo's latest print mugging. That had to please Mongo, whose person strongly suggests a word that rhymes with mug.

But if you happened to spend the week catching up with the Hilary Duff fan mags (a better use of your time, actually) here's what happened.

There was once a thriving black press in this country. What is left of it here is a rather wretched weekly called the Michigan Chronicle, which is bought by less than 4 percent of the area's African-American population.

Mongo put together an ad that appeared to compare that other Adolf, the dead German guy, to Jennifer Granholm. Supposedly, the ad was placed by an unknown group called "Voice the Vote," which is headed by Mongo's stepdaughter. (Suppose it has a membership of more than two?)

"Say No to Governor Granholm in November!" it screamed. Naturally, it was piously denounced by all those who wash their hands before dinner, even Dick DeVos, the Republican candidate for governor.

"There is no place in Michigan politics for this ad," DeVos intoned. "It is appalling, and this approach is despicable and wrong."

The Democrats howled, of course, except for Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who may have been howling for a different reason; he was in the hospital in Houston, stricken by a painful intestinal ailment, diverticulitis.

What is really going on here?

Here's a pretty well-informed guess. Everyone in Detroit politics knows that Adolph Mongo is always for sale, but he has never fit the classic definition of an honest politician as one who stays bought. He's been for Kwame and against Kwame; for Geoffrey Fieger and against him.

But the ad packed a powerful message apart from the silly picture of Adolf Hitler. What the words said was that the Democratic Party, and by implication the governor, takes African-American voters for granted.

Everyone knows that at some times and in some places, that has certainly been all too true. And Republicans are eager to capitalize on that. You don't have to be James Carville to know that there had to be well-laundered GOP money behind that ad.

Mongo certainly did not use his own scratch. Just before this ad broke, there was a vigorous Internet discussion among members of Men of Wisdom, a black grassroots political group. One of them claimed Mongo recently had a problem leaving tip money on the table of a downtown greasy spoon. So, somebody bankrolled this ad.

Do the Republicans think they can win any significant share of the black vote with advertising like this? Not at all. They aren't going to get a thimbleful of black votes, no matter what they do. But what they hope is that they can make African-Americans too discouraged to vote at all.

On the other hand, I'll bet Kwame, off in Houston, was secretly delighted, at least between bouts of intestinal attacks.

Here's how come: Detroit's mayor and its voters never have had much love for Granholm. She finished third in the city four years ago, remember, behind Jim Blanchard and David Bonior. Worse, she clearly wanted Freman Hendrix to win the mayoral election last fall.

So the mayor wouldn't mind teaching the governor a lesson. Presumably not too much of a lesson: Everyone remembers that Coleman Young got mad at Blanchard, in 1990, and didn't turn out the vote. The result was that Michigan got John Engler, not a man who did much of anything for black folks, or Detroit, a fact that Mayor Young came to regret. Nobody in Detroit who is lucid and operating with the brainpower of a nine-volt battery, thinks DeVos would be good for them.

What Kwame Kilpatrick really wants is for the governor to come to him, beret in hand, and make nice, make concessions, flatter, promise stuff. Then he will go to work and turn out the troops. Mongo may be reactivated; before the election, another ad may be placed, equating Dick DeVos with the Antichrist, or worse yet, George W. Bush.

That's how the game of extortion, oops, politics is played. The mayor knows all about this, by the way; last fall, Mongo was Kwame's pit bull when the infamous "Media Lynch Mob" ad (I was the ugliest one) appeared in both the Chronicle and another marginal newspaper, the Michigan Citizen.

Ironically, in that case as in this, the rest of the media are far more to blame. Had they not jumped all over the story, the influence of both ads would have been limited to those newspapers' 14 or so readers.

Yet by trumpeting the fact that somebody had — shriek — put a picture of Adolf next to one of Jenny, Mongo got hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of publicity for his keepers' few bucks for a cheap newspaper ad.

Whatever names our local Adolph deserves, stupid is not one.


Destroying our state: There is a malevolent group of idiots out there who have apparently succeeded in getting enough signatures to put an amendment on the ballot that would effectively end the ability of government to respond to change, growth and sudden disasters and emergencies.

They call themselves the "Michigan Stop Overspending Committee," and they want to restrict any government spending increases to the inflation rate. And not, by the way, just state government. It would apply to local units of government too. What if the voters of Canton wanted to have a special millage to build a new school or firehouse? Too bad — unless you want to stop spending on, say, police.

What if a tornado hits Kalamazoo, as one did in 1979? Could the state ask the voters for extra money for disaster relief? No, that would be illegal. Same goes if we want to spend more on higher education.

That would take away our ability to effectively govern ourselves, and effectively destroy Michigan's ability to compete in the modern world. We would become a third world state, home to declining population, lots of rusting metal and collapsing infrastructure.

The truth is that Michigan is now below average in the total proportion of taxes its residents have to pay, and we need, if anything, more government spending, not less. So who is behind this crazy notion? Three out-of-state right-wing groups, including the National Taxpayers Union Foundation in Virginia. They ponied up the money, maybe a million dollars' worth, needed to collect the signatures.

Everyone now ought to forget all about silly campaign ads, and go to work to defeat this turkey. A milder version of this same law was passed in Colorado in 1992, and its effects were so disastrous that even the Republicans voted overwhelmingly to suspend it last year.

Colorado, by the way, is a growing state with a growing economy. Michigan would be hit much harder, and have a much harder time recovering.


Grab a Peace of the Action: Peace Action, perhaps the hardest-working peace group around, is having its national congress Friday through Sunday at Manoogian Hall at Wayne State University.

Speakers will include noted one-time Royal Oak bad boy and '60s icon Tom Hayden, U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey, a California Democrat who is on the side of the angels, and our own John Conyers, who has fought against more bad things than a phalanx of angels.

Call 248-548-3920 for times, other activities and a free decoder ring.

Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Contact him at [email protected]
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